It was wrong to exclude Iran from peace talks on Syria

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By Fatih Abdulsalam

Azzaman, January 23, 2014

The speeches delivered in the opening session at the Geneva II peace conference on Syria were bitter, repetitive in the ideas and the language they carried.

This is always the case with negotiations with foregone conclusions. They start with unrealistic demands to see whether opponents would consider accepting something lower than what is being proposed.

The sticking issue or the intractable problem that has accompanied the three-year bloody conflict has been there right from the beginning, i.e. the fate of President Bashar Assad and his role in a future transitional government.

As the conference convened in Switzerland and delegates started delivering their speeches, Damascus announced the landing of the first civilian plane at the Aleppo International Airport – a symbolic sign of the regime’s strength on the ground and a message to its opponents that they will have to lower down the ceiling of their demands.

The opposition is not realistic. It is driven by sentiments and nervousness rather than wisdom.

The withdrawal of the invitation the U.N. had extended to Iran to attend the conference tells that the opposition is not pragmatic. Iran was excluded due to the pressure the opposition exerted on the U.N.

There is no denying that Iran is a fundamental and effective player in the Syrian card, whether we like it or not and that no solution could be reached without it.

Its presence at the conference would have placed moral pressure on Tehran to contribute to an end to the bloody and horrific conflict in Syria.

Iran like other states namely Iraq and some Arab Gulf countries are implicated in the conflict. The decision to exclude Iran was not unrealistic but also amateurish in terms of policy.

Analyzing the speeches, even those given by foreign ministers from the world’s superpowers, one can easily come to the conclusion that these countries have no explicit role to exercise.

This is why I see that the situation in Syria is in need of Iran whose role should not and cannot be overlooked.

Iran is the country which could have lowered the ceiling of unrealistic demands made at the conference.

Iran’s presence would have been very useful. It is not a matter of hate and love and it should not be.